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U.S. Senate Passes Health Care Reform Bill Containing Provision For Au

December 25, 2009

Washington, DC (December 25, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, applauds the members of the U.S. Senate for yesterday passing an overall health care reform bill that contains provisions for autism insurance reform, as well as the funding to accelerate the scientific discovery of autism treatments and cures.

The provision for autism insurance reform was introduced in September by Senator Robert Menendez and passed by the Senate Finance Committee with the support of Committee Chairman Max Baucus. The provision will prohibit discrimination in benefits against people with autism by including behavioral health treatments as part of the essential benefits package.

The bill also included elements of the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Act, introduced in April by Senator Arlen Specter . Like the CAN Act, this provision of the health care reform bill would create a large new fund for, and focus on, "bench to bedside" research, creating an emphasis on more quickly translating research discoveries into practical medical applications. Autism Speaks was the first disease advocacy group to support the CAN Act.

“We are grateful to Senators Menendez, Baucus, Specter, and their Senate colleagues for passing this health care reform bill, ensuring that families dealing with autism are a part of larger health care reform,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services. “Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that autism affects one percent of American children, the need for our legislators to ensure that families can afford the treatments their children need, as well as a redoubling of our federal government’s commitment to science and innovation in the search for a cure, has never been more important.”

“The addition of the Cures Acceleration Network to the health care reform legislation will create the urgency we desperately need at the federal level to push science toward real impact on people’s lives,” said Geraldine Dawson, PhD, Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer. “In the area of autism research, in particular, much needs to be done to translate important discoveries into treatments and therapies that can help individuals living with autism today.”

The Senate and House versions of the health care reform bills must now be reconciled and approved by both bodies before presented to President Obama for his signature.